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Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy: Artistic renditions in the midst of nature

The event presents the showcase of ten artworks across the natural expanse of Massif du Sancy in France.

by Almas SadiquePublished on : Sep 12, 2023

It is in the midst of nature that one usually delves into fantastical reveries and introspection. Whether it is a view of the expansive night sky, the sight of wide-ranging mountainous regions, a walk through towering verdant landscapes, or a glimpse of flowing rivers, we tend to stop in our tracks, if only for a moment, in order to take in these sights. This phenomenon of continual movement and endlessly extending expanses remits the idea of limiting ourselves, and presents, instead, the opportunity to imagine one’s preferred utopia. Such landscapes also urge rumination in tandem with existent predicaments that pervade life. It is, perhaps, for the same reason that literature, art, cinema and other mediums of idea transmission manage to deliver a more intense impact when introspected upon in the midst of nature. These unsullied landscapes also manage to usher and inspire novel ideas in our minds. Ergo, one can surmise that natural scapes are key sites for inventiveness. Now, imagine these ideas and thoughts take on a tangible form to meet us during our occasional ventures into natural terrains!

An art event, Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy, placed in the pristine and expansive landscape of Massif du Sancy, in Auvergne, France, utilises the natural site as a backdrop and part of ten art installations that invite reveries and contemplation. The event is designed to deliver introspective pauses in the midst of nature. From bamboo installations that recreate aquatic ecosystems and hanging sculptures that depict the ever-prevalent connection between humans and nature, to showcases that highlight the local heritage, reimagine popular legends, and draw focus upon ecological issues, the thematic scale of the event is extensive. "Horizons was created in 2007 with the objective of discovering natural heritage in a different way and creating an innovative cultural event. The initial idea is to make visitors aware of respect for the environment and to encourage them to explore our landscapes," shares Justine Oulie, who is responsible for organising the event.

A glimpse into the various installations exhibited during Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 Video: Courtesy of Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023

Now in its 17th edition, the event has managed to establish Massif du Sancy as a region dotted with contemporary creations. Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 hosts 10 large-scale installations, which were selected from 175 proposals submitted by creatives from across the globe. Each of these installations is positioned at different locations across Sancy. This makes the experience of viewing each work unique from the others, in that the experience delivered through these creations is enhanced by their locales. "What I like about the art festival is that we are really completely immersed in nature and in this landscape of volcanoes, of mountains, of forests. Finally, a nature which is very luxuriant, very generous and magnificent, and that provides artists with a unique space," shares Sylvie De Meurville, one of the participants in the event.

The organisation welcomes nearly 220,000 annual visitors to experience the contemporary art exhibition. The artists selected each year are invited to propose in-situ installations, such that their work interacts with the immediate natural surroundings. "I like this festival because the places are very wild, and you can feel the connection with nature, and the artists have the possibility to make something that communicates with the people and the place at the same time,” shares Riccardo Buonafede, an exhibitor this year.

The 10 large-scale art installations encourage visitors to hike through the landscapes of Sancy. While some sculptures are positioned on plateaus and mountain tops, others are situated at the brink of waterfalls and upon ponds and lakes. Some others occupy the forested area. A map published by the organisation helps ease the process of navigating through these different landscapes and onto sites that hold the artworks. “There are ten works that are spread out a bit throughout the entire massif and are something that is really interesting for the people who discover them because they can really immerse themselves in the place. The works are not laid out next to each other and there is really space that is granted around the work. This also provides an artistic objective for hikes, which is really interesting and what I liked,” shares Antoine Janot, another participant this year.

STIR glances through the ten installations on view in the midst of the immensely blessed Massif du Sancy. 

'Anadrome' by Camille Mansir

‘Anadrome’ by Camille Mansir | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Camille Mansir | STIRworld
Anadrome by Camille Mansir Image: Dimitri Lionel

Just like the seemingly erratic occurrence of twigs, pebbles, bugs and marshes in a naturally verdant landscape, Camille Mansir’s Anadrome, stationed at the heart of the Bois de Charlet forest, serves as a whimsical sculptural allusion to aquatic life. Mansir is a French visual artist who experiments with various materials and mediums (such as printmaking, sculpture making and more) to build large-scale static creations that assume dynamic energy. This aquatic immersion in the midst of the lush scenery seeks to invite visitors to glance up in anticipation and awe at the recreation of the fluid movement of aquatic beings, while also contemplating the decreasing number of migratory fishes in our waterways. Anadrome is both an evolving and a travelling project. While it initially began in Gironde, the installation recently migrated to Sancy to be showcased within the Bois de Charlet forest. It was built by Mansir in collaboration with the final year students from the agricultural college in Rochefort-Montagne (Puy-deDôme).

Mansir’s bamboo installation, comprising several individual sculptures that depict the many moods and movements of fishes, is suspended in the beech forest, on the banks of the Dordogne. "At the beginning, when we were moving the installation from Gironde, we found it fabulous to offer them a fantastic migration and to return a little close to the sources of the Dordogne,” shares the French artist, enunciating the importance of stationing her installation near the Dordogne basin, which is part of the last river-estuarine system that still supports all eight species of migratory amphihaline fish in Europe.

'Memoire' by Sylvie De Meurville

  • Memoire by Sylvie De Meurville  | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Sylvie De Meurville | STIRworld
    Memoire by Sylvie De Meurville Image: Dimitri Lionel
  • Close-up view of ‘Memoire’ | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Sylvie De Meurville | STIRworld
    Close-up view of Memoire Image: Dimitri Lionel

Hung on the (volcanic ashes concretion) wall that paves the path for the Rossignolet waterfall, Memoire, a 3 millimetre thick stainless steel sculpture, built by Sylvie De Meurville, is laser-cut and welded in a pattern that makes it one with the vicinal billows. The densely patterned installation bears the visage of a sentient being and appears to be merging with nature. Its subdued sheen helps it blend in with its rocky backdrop. On the other hand, sporadic flickers of light, reflected from the sculpture on bright days, bear semblance to the falling waters of Rossignolet. This rendition of a realised character—that depicts the angels of life and death—reminds the viewers that there is no difference or barrier between nature and us and that we are like water. "The waterfall is known to be popularly associated with the image of a bride’s veil. In relation to this, the sculpture I drew is an angel that comes to its venous circuit to accentuate the fact that we are liquid, in fact. I made its wings so that it resembles an angel of life or death whose wings are made of water,” Meurville shares.

Meurville, a French sculptor, scenographer, and artistic director, who spends time observing the energies existent in the world as well as their relationship with living beings, has, recently, begun work on the research of water. In an attempt to highlight the similarities that Meurville witnesses between water and the landscapes and creatures formed and nurtured by it, she builds installations in, around, and about water. Memoire, situated in the midst of the Rossignolet waterfall (that emerges from Ruisseau de l’Enfer and falls into the Dordogne), seeks a similar end. “Water is one of the main components of life. Falling from the clouds to infiltrate the rock and emerge as a spring, it connects the sky and earth. It has given rise to many legends and plays a key role in most traditions,” reads an excerpt from the press release. Meurville cites Greek mythology where two springs are mentioned and associated with memory and forgetting, namely Mnemosyne and Lethe, respectively. The latter is believed to have given itself to a river in the underworld. With Memoire, Meurville plays with the water that emerges from Ruisseau de l’Enfer or Stream of Hell, until it merges with it. The sculptor, through her installation, urges visitors to break the cycle by "not falling into the lethargy of oblivion and instead, attempting to preserve life."

‘Ruine’ by Riccardo Buonafede

‘Ruine’ by Riccardo Buonafede | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Riccardo Buonafede | STIRworld
Ruine by Riccardo Buonafede Image: Dimitri Lionel

Inspired by the monumental Indonesian statues attributed to gods and dieties, Riccardo Buonafede envisioned Ruine. The artist declares that Ruine is a ‘representation of Mother Nature.’ Just like archaic sculptural figurines are often covered with roots and foliage (depicting the act of nature reclaiming space), Buonafede’s Ruine, stationed on the Couze Chambon river, is enfolded by the Cascade du Saillant waterfall in the vicinity, and its own neutral buoyancy that keeps it afloat partially. In placing the sculpture so precariously upon a water body, the artist aims to honour the indispensable offerings of nature towards the human race, and the former’s right to reclaim previously pilfered spaces. “I chose this spot to present my installation because here, the waterfall is very strong, and you can feel the power of nature,” Buonafede shares.

Buonafede is an Italian artist whose work is characterised by a special emphasis upon anatomical features, albeit in a style that bears semblance to Pop Art and lies at the brink of both modernism and classicism. In Ruine, too, the artist juxtaposes the classical statue with the usage of contemporary materials used to build it—plastic and fibreglass. By choosing plastic as the primary building material for the sculpture, the artist manages to keep the sculpture afloat. With this material usage, he also aims to provoke and highlight the degradation of the environment by man.

‘Vents d’Auvergne’ by Charlotte Goffette and Lucie Sahuquet

‘Vents d’Auvergne’ by Charlotte Goffette and Lucie Sahuquet | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Charlotte Goffette and Lucie Sahuquet | STIRworld
Vents d’Auvergne by Charlotte Goffette and Lucie Sahuquet Image: Dimitri Lionel

The Vents d’Auvergne installation by Belgian artist and designer Charlotte Goffette and French artist and graphic designer Lucie Sahuquet seeks to educate visitors about the different winds flowing through Massif de Sancy. Vents d’Auvergne is stationed on Plateau de Liadouze, a highland that, at 1,400 metres above sea level, bridges the mountainous and sub-alpine zones on either side of it, and offers views of the surrounding landscape. The site also houses a rich variety of flora from species common in Mediterranean and mountain regions.

Vents d’Auvergne consists of a central platform seat, with the cardinal points identified and marked upon its surface. The installation also comprises a series of flags proximally located. This helps identify the different winds and their orientation. The installation also bears markings of the different winds that flow in the region, with brief descriptions (delineating its source, direction, and path). While the placement of the installation enables visitors to feel and enjoy the unrestricted flow of winds, its design, markings and flags stationed in the vicinity simultaneously educate people about specific details pertaining to them.

Goffette and Sahuquet also intend for the installation to be a site for meditation and introspection on and around the questions of global warming. “This is also why I work on winds, since it is really a vector of many meteorological elements and suddenly,” Goffette shares, highlighting her practice, which delves into research pertaining to meteorological phenomena. 

‘La Cabane aux Miroirs’ by Antoine Janot

‘La Cabane aux Miroirs’ by Antoine Janot | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Antoine Janot | STIRworld
La Cabane aux Miroirs by Antoine Janot Image: Dimitri Lionel

Built by multidisciplinary artist Antoine Janot, La Cabane aux Miroirs is an installation that serves as an homage to the breeders and builders of burons or huts of Ventoux. Burons were buildings that not only sheltered their inhabitants but were also part of the endangered mountain heritage. “Ephemeral structures, they housed fragments of life like many fragments of mirrors,” reads an excerpt from the press release shared by the festival organisers. La Cabane aux Miroirs, located in the heart of the Montagne du Breuil, serves as an ode to this architectural heritage, while also drawing the visitors’ focus to its dwindling numbers. While the form of Janot’s installation mimics the visage of this architectural heritage of the Massif du Sancy, its surface, covered entirely in a mosaic of mirrors (acquired from local recyclers) that reflect the surrounding landscape, highlights the structure’s importance as an integral entity in times when humans lived in harmony with nature.

‘Dancing Figures’ by Rumen Dimitrov

‘Dancing Figures’ by Rumen Dimitrov | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Rumen Dimitrov | STIRworld
Dancing Figures by Rumen Dimitrov Image: Dimitri Lionel

Inspired by the traditional Bulgarian nature celebration Enyovden, Bulgarian sculptor Rumen Dimitrov created Dancing Figures. The tradition entails that a night before Enyovden, medicinal plants have the strongest healing power. Hence, women would go out before sunrise to collect all the plants needed for the year ahead. This image of women wandering in the night has been told and retold in Bulgarian fables and legends. Dimitrov recreates this imaginary world with Dancing Figures, which comprises six sculptures—sculpted from the tree trunks of Black Oak—placed in the Pré Le Mont meadow.

Dimitrov is a lover of nature and builds most of his sculptures outdoors, with robust and natural materials. They bear a unique unfinished aesthetic, while managing to highlight sensitive stories. Dancing Figures, too, comprises a series of sculptures that, although minimally built, embody the mannerisms of humans. The individual sculptures come together to resemble a harmonious interaction. “My art comes from nature, and goes back to nature,” the sculptor shares.

‘Orgues aux Abeilles’ by Sati Mougard

‘Orgues aux Abeilles’ by Sati Mougard | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Sati Mougard | STIRworld
‘Orgues aux Abeilles’ by Sati Mougard Image: Dimitri Lionel

Orgues aux Abeilles, configured to resemble the monolithic structures of the prehistoric era, intends to deliver a multi-sensorial experience. Its arrangement also bears semblance to the cells of beehives, especially when viewed from above. “Sun-coloured, with a seductive smell, a mystical form, evoking the remains of an ancient altar, the Orgue aux Abeilles is intended to be an individual and reveal the sacred and essential character of bees,” mentions the description of the beeswax installation. Built by French sculptor and plastic artist Sati Mougard, this installation is stationed at a spot that offers panoramic views of the peaks of the Massif du Sancy.

It is built with the intention of raising awareness for the processes that make life, especially the work of pollinators, who are slowly declining in numbers. It also aims to usher in conscientious respect for life and encourage individuals to develop an organic relationship with works of art. Since the large-scale installation is built using beeswax, its eventual deterioration is inevitable, a factor that Mougard surmises will reflect the impact of heatwaves. Mougard, who specialises in glass art, attempts to call into question the dualism of nature and culture, in her work. With Orgues aux Abeilles, too, Mougard manages to incite introspection in this realm.

‘Ballet D’Araignees D’eau’ by Didier Ferment and Bruno Tondellier

  • ‘Ballet D’Araignees D’eau’ by Didier Ferment and Bruno Tondellier | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Didier Ferment and Bruno Tondellier | STIRworld
    Ballet D’Araignees D’eau by Didier Ferment and Bruno Tondellier Image: Dimitri Lionel
  • Top view of ‘Ballet D’Araignees D’eau’ | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Didier Ferment and Bruno Tondellier | STIRworld
    Top view of Ballet D’Araignees D’eau Image: Dimitri Lionel

Taking advantage of the large natural expanse—dotted with an array of natural features—that Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy provides the artists with, wind artisans Didier Ferment and Bruno Tondellier, station their installation Ballet D’Araignees D’eau on the Etang de Charlut pond. Ferment and Tondellier are part of the organisation Artisans du Vent, a practice that has developed around their mutual love for kiting, wind music, and land art. They work in nature, harnessing the provisions of the wind, sun, water and more.

Their installation in Sancy draws focus to water spiders, creatures that extensively contribute to the ecological balance by micro-mixing water on the surface of ponds. Water spiders are usually found on the surface of the water, gliding, skating, or dancing through the expanse. Ferment and Tondellier invite visitors to view their water spider-inspired floating installation, which comprises self-supporting structures made out of bamboo, ropes and sails. The artisans refer to their installation as “water skaters,” and welcome viewers to enjoy a ballet performance being delivered by them. The structure of the installations resembles the pinwheel and is set in motion at the slightest nudge of the wind. Together, these individual pieces create a brilliant dancing spectacle for all to view. In the process, they draw focus to another blessing from nature—the water spiders.

‘Eye’ by Tereza Hola

‘Eye’ by Tereza Hola | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Tereza Hola | STIRworld
Eye by Tereza Hola Image: Dimitri Lionel

Eye is a contemporary interpretation of yurts, which were circular mobile houses typically used by farmers and nomadic people. While the base of Eye is inspired directly by the design of yurts, the structure of its upper surface, made using coloured plastic bottles, and a glass dome in the middle, deviates from the traditional archetype. This results in the structure resembling the iris of an eye, and hence the name of the installation. “When I planned this project, I wanted to put the eye on the top of the hill, and I am really lucky that I found this incredible place that offers a panoramic view of the landscape,” explains Hola. Eye is positioned in the hamlet of Brion, upon what appears to be a hilltop.

Czech Republic-based plastic artist Tereza Hola (who utilises the usage of both natural materials and man-made waste to depict the impact of human activity and consumption on nature), invites visitors, through Eye, to connect with the earth and the universe. One can enter Eye, and lie down on its floor to view the sky through the coloured plastic windows or the glass dome.

‘Zeitgeist#4’ by Virgile Abela

‘‘Zeitgeist#4’ by Virgile Abela | Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy 2023 | Virgile Abela | STIRworld
Zeitgeist#4 by Virgile Abela Image: Dimitri Lionel

Lastly, Zeitgeist#4 by composer Virgile Abela, the tenth and final installation exhibited as part of the art festival, is a sound organ. Standing tall at four metres, the installation harps upon any disturbance from the wind. Virgile Abela’s Zeitgeist#4, much like his other works, is designed to capture the vibrations of air and transform them into music. Located on the Colline Lagarde hillside, the installation appears like a series of vibrating monoliths that set tune to the expansive landscape.

Horizons Arts-Nature en Sancy is open to the public from June 17 to September 17, 2023, in the Massif du Sancy in France.

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